"This seems much longer than a mile," we panted, "Is it two?" We wondered if we had gotten lost on alternate hike paths. Eight year old Daniel and his short-legged five year old cousin huffed and panted alongside us, their small legs trekking a longer trail in proportion to us.
Four adults and two children, we hiked in hot sunshine, passed ferns, carnivorous pitcher plants, and towering pines. A blue lake sheened in the heat just out of reach through the trees, and then we were at the end. In the parking lot, our small group grinned wearily, gulped cold water from a metal park spigot, and rejoined our extended family.
The week passed in beautiful rhythms. Loons warbled in the night, raccoons rustled and grunted as we lay in sleeping bags nearby, and we tip-toed shy feet to bathroom breaks in the night, hoping to avoid bears. Early mornings brought hot coffee, scuffed muddy knees, and boy snacks by the dozen.
And somewhere in between the bonding and the kissing over the board games, words sliced fast. The fights are never about anything important, are they, these husband and wife disagreements? There were two ideas of how to cook chicken shish-kebabs, and multiple ways of expressing it. We bombed that. He said, she said, and then both of us were red-faced and hot at the wood fire.
Later in a patch of grass off to the side, we offered quiet apologies, explanations, defensive hurt feelings and hopes, but angry words splashed warm again. Walking away to wind down, we finished supper, speaking civilly to each other, but knowing that more effort was needed.
Behind a zippered tent, I prayed with my eight year old and pulled his sleeping bag and blankets high. "I love you, bud," I murmured close to his soft forehead, breathing in his scent and kissing him. We talked for a few minutes more and then I pulled out my Bible and scooted to a far corner of the tent to read silently nearby as he started to fall asleep.
My bookmark saved where I had left off, and I resumed reading with a shake of my head. "Very funny, God."
I could feel my heart softening and my breathing deepening. Unzipping the tent and slipping out, Mark and I found each other and talked, faces closer, apologizing, choosing soft tones, and starting over each time. We grinned and kissed again.
And I love that about marriage. Sometime it's like addictive smores over a woodfire and other times it's like a muggy hike through the woods that feels longer than you expected. At those times, our God can swoop down, whisk us up, and carry us until we get our second wind.
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